Penzeys Spices True Love

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Love to cook. Cook to love. That’s Penzeys Spices motto and my adopted motto as well. I’ve been a devotee of Penzeys ever since my sister turned me on to their catalog years ago (yes, Nicole, I give you full credit!). The closest store to us back in California was Torrance (way too far from San Clemente) so we would both study the catalog, read the articles, and then coordinate our orders to save on shipping. Lucky for me, I have access to the fabulous Falls Church, Virginia store, which I have yet to visit, but plan on supplementing my diminishing stores of spices soon.

Some of you may know that I was featured in the catalog a few years back and paid homage to Raj by including our traditional Friday night pizza recipe. One night while I was combing through the catalog in Amman (feeling sad for not being able to ship spices overseas), I was inspired (once again) to respond to their “Calling All Cooks” campaign. I was contacted by one of their pleasant writers and shared with her my experiences of living overseas and a few of my favorite Middle Eastern recipes. The story sort of morphed into a love story about how Raj and I met.

Here’s the link to the Fall, “True Love” catalog Our story is featured on page 48-49. Check out my recipes for Shish Tawouk (my favorite, simple and easy grilled chicken kebabs) and fattoush (a mixed salad with toasted pita bread pieces). Enjoy…

Umm Qais You Didn’t Know…




Terrace with Golan Heights and Sea of Galilee in Background

Umm Qais (aka Gadara (its Greek name)) is about a two-hour ride north of Amman (aka Philadelphia), unless you follow your GPS, in which case it will take you about 3 and half hours of frustrating, high blood pressure inducing, honk-your-horn-a-lot driving that takes you through small villages made up of dirt roads, numerous driving hazards and not one public toilet. It’s a good thing we had friends visiting from the States or else we may have turned around and opted to stay at home.


Basalt Columns in the Remains of Byzantine Church (5th or 6th Century)

Umm Qais (Gadara) is perched atop hilly farmland (olive and fig trees) overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Syria and the Golan Heights. The expansive 180 degree views are breathtaking and compete with the beauty of the time-worn ruins.

Such a Patient Driver!

In addition to the historical significance of the ruins, Gadara also has biblical significance– it’s said to be the site where Jesus performed the miracle of the Gadarene swine (Matthew 8:28-32).

Gadara was founded in 323 BC. During Gadara’s golden age (second-century AD), it was considered a city of great cultural vitality, a center of philosophy, poetry and the performing arts. By 325 AD, Muslims ruled the city, followed by a series of earthquakes that destroyed much of the city’s infrastructure. In the 1890s, a small village grew up amongst the Roman ruins until 1986 when its inhabitants were paid to leave the site to enable archaeological excavation.

Check out the VIP seats behind Raj (they have seat backs).

After scrambling around the ruins for an hour, we worked up an appetite and ate lunch at the Resthouse–a restaurant on the grounds offering great views, good food and exceptionally clean (attendant free with TP) restrooms.

Resthouse Restaurant in the Background

We drove home without the assistance of our GPS and arrived home in just over two hours.

In the West Theater

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